Sep 30, 2020

What Our New Open Science Policy Means for the Future of Research

A new Open Science policy from Templeton World Charity Foundation aims to streamline and improve research across scientific fields.

By Dawid Potgieter

We are at the beginning of a new, five-year strategy to support scientific research on human flourishing, and as part of that, Templeton World Charity Foundation has revised its grant-making activities to incentivize open science best practices across all fields of inquiry which we support. Open science refers to a process whereby research data, methods and findings are made open and available to all researchers — regardless of affiliation — for free. This may sound like inside baseball, but it will affect all of us by radically changing the way scientists work, accelerating the pace of scientific breakthroughs, and making the upper echelons of science more global and more inclusive.


Our new commitment includes two policies. Our Open Access Policy requires that anyone who uses Foundation research dollars must make their final paper openly accessible to anyone with an internet connection. They can still publish in any journal they like, and our policy allows for a number of options to stay compliant. This policy aligns with Plan S, and we are delighted to also be joining cOAlition S. As a part of this new policy we will also commit more resources toward article processing charges to facilitate this transformation.

In support of this, we also launched a Research Assessment Policy, which seeks to increase fairness and scientific rigor. Researchers have typically been encouraged to publish in journals with a high impact factor, but they tend to have a paywall. Under our new research assessment policy, we put value on the quality of data, code and methodologies produced by the researcher, and we will not prioritize impact factor. These changes are the result of a long process of analysis and our core conviction that open science is a requirement for driving scientific breakthroughs in the future. This policy aligns with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).


We expect our open science policies to open the door for more researchers in the developing world. Subscriptions to top journals can cost universities millions of dollars per year, putting them out of reach to thousands of scientists around the world. We are based in the Bahamas — a small island nation — and consequently we are acutely aware of the value of helping people in lots of different countries — large and small, rich and poor — and the ability of this sort of radical inclusion to drive rapid and world-changing innovation. Since we make a concerted effort to support researchers on a global scale, surely it would be a waste if only a small number of people can access the findings.

These two policies are part of a broader effort at the Foundation to promote best practices in open science. We are enthusiastic about research questions that could have a substantial impact. The problem is, these questions don’t always yield the answers one might expect. Even if they do, the first answer is not always correct. Best practices in open science provide a commonsense solution to this problem. By increasing access to the research, we make it easier for others to evaluate the findings. This provides more opportunities to spot problems and make corrections. We already require such best practices in some of our initiatives, such as Accelerating Research on Consciousness. We plan to systematically increase our support for such practices where we have confidence that doing so will help and not hinder our grantees.


Open Science has gained much traction over the last few years, but it has not been without criticism. Perhaps the greatest worry is that the open science movement may cause too much disruption. Some fear that open science could cause journals to go out of business, scientists to lose funding, or professional societies to suffer a loss of income. These concerns are valid, and that is why we are making our changes slowly and systematically. We also remain open to engaging with organizations affected by our policies. We appreciate that other institutions need time to adjust, and we want to allow for that. Nevertheless, these concerns should not be reasons to maintain the status quo. Scientists are in the business of discovering new innovations, and we want to support them through every stage of the discovery and dissemination process.

Another noteworthy critique comes from publishers who worry that the business model of publications, especially ones linked to professional societies, may become fundamentally unsustainable if they switch to open access. This is a significant challenge, but not one completely without solutions. Broadly speaking, under open science policies, money will still flow from the funders to publishers through institutional overhead. One option is for publishers to charge an article processing charge for articles that are published. Another might be to pay for every submission that is considered. Neither of these options are perfect, but they are a good start, and we are eager to work with publishers as their business models evolve.


In a nutshell, with our new open science policies, the Foundation is taking on the inherent tension between innovation in academia and preserving institutions. Instead of asking whether or not open access is worth the hassle, we should embrace opportunities for more effective publication practices. Bringing changes too fast may be disruptive, but we are proud to be working with cOAlition S and other institutions to improve upon the status quo. And this is not about disruption for disruption’s sake. Rather, the reason we are promoting open science is that we fundamentally believe it is the best way to equitably and efficiently distribute research to scientists around the world, and that benefits everyone.